Tim Lawrence reports:
My parents were cleaning the attic and found my old sticker album. This random blast from the past was in it. Fi-leens or Fill-eens? (always was Fi for my family!)
Fie Lee Knees.
Fye - as in "why"
Leens - as in "beans" (for want for a better word
Fye - Leens' Emphasis on the last syllable.
Always impressed and amused by people not from the area or having benefitted from living here a long time not knowing how these things are pronounced, especially the words that are not spelled the way we say them.
Gloucester (gloss'-tah), Worcester (woos'-tah), Natick (Nay'-tick), and the ever-popular Billerica (bill'-rik'-ah)
Well I say Fi-leens and my mom says Fi-leens but her mom (my Nanny) said Fill-eens, and while we're at it, do you eat corn on the cob "typewriter style"? or "toilet paper style"?, and while we're at that, do you do your toilet paper roll "over the top" dispense?, or "under" dispense? Important questions of our time which demand and deserve answers!
But she also pronounced words like bath and grass with an "ah" sound. I heard both so many times (though I think Fi-leens was more common) I just used them interchangeably. Nobody ever commented on it so I think they were both just so common that it didn't really matter.
No need to entertain the psychos who pronounced this "Fill-eens".
That was the nickname of Sister Henrietta at St. Mark's in Dorchester in the 70's/80's.
She got that name owing that if you were screwing up she would poke you with her finger in your left shoulder really hard.
She, owing that she was a psycho as you refer too correctly, was the only person I know who pronounced it "Fill-Enes". All others on the planet; Fi-Lene's, even my wife's Oak Square raised aunt, who had essentially the same vocabulary as me, said Fi-Lenes.
I have no idea how the subject of department store names came up in English / Palmer Method Indoctrination / Shoulder Torture class, but the way she pronounced it stayed with you.
Or one of those hybrid Brahmin/Boston accents who just had different pronunciations?
(baa..throom for bathroom)
I hope she didn't call soda...... tonic.
I still call it tonic by the way.
Some guy asked me where to get a pop about 30 years ago in Park Square. I had no idea what he was talking about. I thought it was slang for speed. I told him the girl hookers were by the Park Square garage and the boy hookers were by the Greyhound station and they might have some. I had no idea what pop was until he explained it was a carbonated beverage with natural and artificial sweetners.
Fi Lenes is where you would buy some new clothes for a trip, say to Caliphoneia, if you were rich enough to ever see the inside of a plane. Rex Trailer used to torture us with his annual trip to Disneyland. I suppose Paragon Park and Castle Island were good enough when they still allowed pahkin thaya.
The boring but inoffensive alternative “soda” was introduced by St. Bonifallacious to bring an end to the brutal Pop/Tonic wars.
When he was in graduate school in Toronto, he got a job as a waiter in a hotel bar, interesting choice for someone who didn’t drink aside from the occasional beer. His first day, a customer ordered a gin and tonic. My father politely asked him, “What kind of tonic?” The puzzled patron stared at him as if he had two heads, then said, “Schweppes?” The bartender ultimately clued him in that tonic meant tonic water and Schweppes was a brand name not some exotic Canadian soda.
THAT WAS YOU?!?
It's tonic dammit!
Everyone called soda TONIC - i noticed that changed when i moved back here in the 1990s
I had immigrant grandparents and they all said FILL-enes.
Never heard of the corn on the cob in same sentence as toilet paper.
Eating it likeTypewriter was a given esp since it was in bugs bunny or one of those cartoons
Older folks called it CON-on the cob
And HOSS for horse
Had gladly forgotten that ruler-wielding nun.
She loved jabbing her finger into her students.
St Greg’s had Sr. Mary Catherine who could have made Spock himself submit with her ear pulling and her bang-the-desk-with-your-elbow move. That was second grade!
God rest her tortured soul
An entire generation of older Boston women pronounced it "Fill-enes", including my grandmother. I am Boston born and raised, now in my 60s, and I remember this to always be the case. It had nothing to do with class or snobbery either. Everybody from blue collar to blue blood did it, and they were almost always women. And nobody had an answer why, they just did it.
My mom and aunts from Newton always said Fill-enes but no one else. Very funny!
Both sets of grandparents and all their brothers and sisters said “Fillene’s”. They were all born in the first 12 years of the last century. My parents pronounced it the same and that’s the way I and my siblings grew up pronouncing it.
called it "Fill-eens" and pronounced it very quickly, almost like one syllable. She also had a funny way of pronouncing the word, "film." Fill-um, she called it, with two syllables.
I,myself, always said "Fye-leens."
Man, I miss that place! All my best buys came from there, including mine and my husband's wedding attire. As a kid, I used to go down there with my aunt from HP on the Orange Line. We'd get dressed up and wear white gloves and cross the street for a celebratory Jordan Marsh blueberry muffin when we were done with our successful hunt. The loss of Filene's almost made going downtown irrelevant for me, except when I'm forced to go to City Hall for some reason or other.
btw, That video of Menino waxing poetically about "The Basement" is pure gold!
but all you really had to say was clothes shopping in town.
Start by adding the word 'basement' to the root, and "Fie-leenz" Basement is the only possible answer.
that place was awesome. such an old school boston feel and great prices on girbuad jeans and polo jackets!!
...and no dressing room for the ladies. So while we wiggled and jiggled men got fitting rooms AND a personal tailor!
I loved the store but there were always perverted men around watching girls and women undress. Such Bullshit
My grammy used to pronounce it fill-ehns - but to be honest, I've only ever heard maybe a half-dozen people say it. . .I always thought it was fye-leens, and grammy was wrong, myself!
Also, Tom Menino:
But that was for that ONE DAY and Menino is dead so no answer to the question.
years in the suits and sport coats section of the Basement. He must have hired a stylist at some point, because his taste in tailored clothes got way, way better in his last few years in office.
I always said FIE-leens, but often heard older folks saying fuh-LEENS. I started life saying FAN-you-uhl Hall, but have adopted the affectation of saying FAN-ill Hall like I was born in the city.
There was a great woman named Pat Marciano who used to tip off the mayor on what was coming into FB. She tipped me off to a few good Barney's suits before the advent of dress down circa 2001.
That doesn’t matter. It is how the people pronounced it. And the old people when I was young all said Fill -eenz. But I am Irish and they were Irish immigrants or first generation mostly born pre 1950.
Brahmin descendants way back in my Beacon Hill days firmly insisted on a monosyllable — Fleens. Note too these were the same sorts who corrected those who pronounced S.S. Pierce the grocer as anything other than Perse, said Purse. They claimed knowledge of all things Boston and arguing with them was unproductive.
Not to complicate all this, but the "Fleens" pronunciation is an entirely separate situation than the long standing "Fie-lenes/Fill-enes" debate. The people who said "Fleens" are the people who said "lit-ra-ture", for example. It's an affectation. The "Fie-lenes/Fill-enes" situation was simply a phenomenon nobody really knew the reason for.
and the TV commercial and Menino interview confirm that.
The "Fill-leens/Fuh-leens" pronunciation was reasonably common among older Boston women when I was growing up in the 60s and 70s. Nobody is saying it's correct, or that it was the official pronunciation, but they used it and swore by it.
Another aid in knowing how it is pronounced is knowing the origin of the name.
William Filene started the store and was a German immigrant. When he moved to America he wanted a classier Latin-sounding name but related to his original name in German, which was Wilhelm Katz. (Thus 'Filene' comes from 'Feline')
So when I was 7 and called it "Feline's" I was sorta correct :-)
"Fə⸳leens" was not unheard of.
used that dastardly linguistic variation. Wasn't that on the Latin test?
"Fie leans" if your from the city. Not sure about greater Boston.
Fee-leens Fie-leens Foe-leens Fum-leens.
Older people called fill-eenz
Young’uns FI -leenz
And by OLD i mean born before 1950s
Also same for Fan-ell Vs Fan -U - ell hall
Pocketbook vs Pock-a-book
Frappe vs milkshake
Tonic vs soda
Remember when vs ‘membah when...
And so on and so on
My grandmother, Mom and aunts were staunch Fil-ines ladies, while the next lazy generation went with FI-lenes.
TREE-mont/Treh-mont is another one
You sing every letter separately, like they do in the ads, then the jingle gets stuck in your head for days.
It's a process.
fī'lēnz (fi'lēnz would be spelled [or is it spelt ?] fillenes)
Saying "fill-eens" is like saying "war-cest-er". You don't do it anywhere in the country.
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